Cheese paradise, by the slice

I'm usually reluctant to name absolute favorites in most realms of the food world, but when it comes to cheese, I admit an abiding, life-long infatuation with one: Epoisses de Bourgogne. Nothing moves me quite like a perfectly ripe round of this divine Burgundian stinker, its marc de Bourgogne brandy-washed rind hovering like an earthy-orange aura over its pungent heart, a molten ivory flow of creamy, tangy, shiny, irresistible soul.

The once uncommon Epoisses has become increasingly accessible in recent years. The only problem is that they are almost never perfectly ripe. The pasteurized versions found in local stores (the French raw-milk classic is rarely seen Stateside) tend to be either underripe (with a carrot-bright orange crust), or too far gone (nearly brown), with only a fleeting moment of perfect bliss in between. The most satisfying solution I've found is the larger-format Epoisses coupe from premier producer Berthaut, whose one-kilogram rounds (nearly four times the size of the original) allow cheesemongers to more easily gauge and serve the perfect ripeness. The added bonus of access to smaller slices, given the expense, means I can indulge my Epoisses habit more often.
- Craig LaBan
Epoisses coupe is available for $28 a pound at Downtown Cheese in the Reading Terminal Market (215-351-7412).